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5 ways to build a resilient firm

Business

Learn how to bounce back from failure

Inc.com | January 25, 2012

How can you and your organization develop more resilience?
 
We all know we’re supposed to learn from our mistakes, to pick ourselves up when we fall down. But how do we find that fortitude? Are some of us born that way—or do we learn it?
 
I think part of the answer is in developing a culture of resilience using these five strategies:
 
1. Don’t try to solve your employees’ problems (business or otherwise!) Whether you’re an employer or a parent (and I’m both), you surely know that helping people grow means allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them. Making mistakes is an important part of resilience—it builds strength. How often do you hear about kids whose parents did not allow them to fail, only to find those kids later in life implode at the smallest of failures? People can learn how to fail, too.
 
2. Never lambaste someone for a mistake. When people are resilient, they collaborate to solve problems. When their efforts are successful (and they usually are), it’s important to applaud them publicly for their response. Other employees, who might not be naturally resilient themselves, can learn from those successes. But they also can learn from failure. Because, as we all know, s*** happens. Usually when you least expect it.
 
3. Ask employees about their personal lives. As an employer seeking resilience, I hire people who are already happy in their lives by asking interview questions about what they’re dealing with in their personal lives. (Don’t worry HR professionals, I don’t go over the line). I also look for people who are willing to step outside their comfort zones and do things such as travel to foreign places with just a backpack. People who are happy in life and willing to explore are the kinds of people that seem to excel.
 
4. Encourage people to ask questions. It’s crucial to communicate that it’s OK to be nervous—even scared. I never say “Don’t worry about it” because, frankly, people will worry regardless of what you say. Instead, I think it’s helpful to encourage lots of communication during difficult times. We all know that misery loves company. When people talk, the result is “social calming,” which builds resilience. At that point, it’s easier to knuckle down and solve the problem.
 
5. Plan for failure and don’t be surprised when it happens. At Blinds.com, we’ve been there, done that: Once, one of our manufacturer’s operations went down totally—overnight. We were flooded with customer calls, wondering where their blinds were—a quantity of calls far beyond what our people could handle. Another time we had a frightening security breach. Both times, our resilient folks quickly assembled a multi-disciplinary SWAT team to calmly address the problem—without blaming anyone.
 
When you build a resilient culture, your entire workforce will be resourceful when it matters most. And so will your company.
 

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